This Week in the ECAC: October 24, 1997

In Boston, ECAC preseason conference favorite RPI was shellacked by the Hockey East preseason number-one, Boston University, by a score of 6-0.

This week, more teams get into the swing of things, including the first "real" games for St. Lawrence and Union.

J.C. Penney Classic St. Lawrence (0-0-0) vs. Colorado College (0-0-0) Friday, 5 pm, Alfond Arena, Orono, ME St. Lawrence (0-0-0) vs. Maine (1-1-0)/St. Thomas (0-0-0) Saturday, 4/7 pm, Alfond Arena, Orono, ME

The Saints have a great forward in Paul DiFrancesco, one of the early favorites for ECAC Player of the Year. "He brings everything on can ask," said head coach Joe Marsh. "He can put points on the board, and he’s a great leader."

"DiFran," as he is known, returns as the leading scorer for the Saints, and has some great linemates in Derek Ladouceur and Bob Prier. That combination should be good for upwards of 100 points this season.

On defense, the Saints have some holes to fill between the pipes. Clint Owen’s departure for Nashville of the Central League leaves junior walk-on Eric Heffler as the only SLU netminder with collegiate experience.

Therefore, Marsh will look to one of his freshmen — Jeremy Symington or Sean Coakley — to fill the void, or to platoon with Heffler.

On the other side of the ice, the Colorado College Tigers have one of the preseason favorites for WCHA Player of the Year in Brian Swanson, one of the best in the nation who is undoubtedly itching to get going in the regular season.

Joining him up front will be Toby Peterson, Darren Clark and Stewart Bodtker. On defense, Brian’s brother Scott, along with Calvin Elfring, will be the guys to look for. Meanwhile, in goal Jason Cugnet should see full-time duty.

For more on Colorado College, see USCHO’s WCHA preview.

The matchup in the Penney Classic is just the beginning of the schedule for the Saints, one which has them on the road for their first seven games. Following this tournament is a trip for two games at Miami, then a jaunt through Princeton and Yale to open the ECAC season, and a trip to crosstown rival Clarkson before the Saints open at home against RPI on Nov. 21.

"Hopefully we haven’t bitten off more than we can chew," said Marsh. "With this schedule, we’re faced with a tough road to begin the season."

PICK: St. Lawrence is headed there, but not yet. Nonetheless, the Saints pick up a third-place finish. Colorado College 5, St. Lawrence 3, and then St. Lawrence 6, St. Thomas 3

Clarkson (0-0-0) at Bowling Green (0-3-0) Friday – Saturday, 7 pm, BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH

There are a lot of questions in Bowling Green these days. Buddy Powers is in the midst of a rough start to the season, and two losses this past weekend made it rougher.

There are trouble spots all over for Powers. Dave Faulkner, Dan Price and Doug Schueller were the offensive weapons this weekend, but otherwise there wasn’t much. To make matters worse, Marc Savard does not seem to be the answer in goal.

For more on Bowling Green, refer to the CCHA preview.

Clarkson lost a pair at the Ice Breaker two weeks ago, and the two weeks off have had the Golden Knights working on plenty of things. The offense did not play particularly well, the defense gave up a lot of goals, and the goaltender was less than stellar. That’s a lot of things.

The players who were expected to score produced in the second game against Boston University, players such as Chris Clark, Buddy Wallace and Yan Turgeon. The Knights need to find scoring from other places, though; perhaps freshman Erik Cole’s debut this weekend will give the them another scoring dimension.

The defense — Clarkson’s strongest suit — should continue to persevere.

"We’re big on defense," said head coach Mark Morris. "We certainly have some intelligent puckhandlers."

Dan Murphy will have to rebound from the peppering he received from Wisconsin, because he is one of the keys to the Knights’ season, and he’s expected to take the Knights to the next level.

PICK: Clarkson’s firepower is too much for the Falcons, even on the road. The Knights rebound and the Falcons remain winless. Clarkson sweeps, 6-2 and 5-1

Union (0-0-0) at Providence (0-0-0) Saturday, 7 pm, Schneider Arena, Providence, RI

They have been referred to as the "Dirty Dozen," the 13 returnees for the Union Skating Dutchmen. They begin life anew this weekend in Providence. The Dutchmen lost 13 players as well, producing a team that will likely look totally different from last season.

"There’s a potential for 75 percent of our forwards to be freshmen right now," said head coach Stan Moore. "And you have the hope of two defensemen catching on, and doing well to replace four seniors. So, yes, there’s very little time for them to ease into the situation."

Moore continues to preach his "process," and with so many new faces, it’s important that they catch on quickly.

"We’re trying to do a lot of the little things that we did last year with our returners," said Moore. "We’re hoping that some of the adrenaline, and some of the youthful exuberance comes to the forefront and gets them to the things we want them to do right away. We hope they’re going to answer the bell…they need to play like sophomores."

One of his key returnees is goaltender Trevor Koenig, the leader in the nation last year in goals-against average (2.03) and save percentage (.931). Koenig is more than capable of winning the Dutchmen games, but Moore does not rely solely on that.

"It takes more than goaltending to win games," he said. "[Koenig is] one facet of our team, and he happens to be exceptional. We need to have the other things come into play to at least give him the chance to be exceptional."

The Dutchmen will take on Providence this weekend. The Friars have a lot of holes to fill, especially up front. Mike Omicioli leads the charge up front.

In goal, Mike Kane should be the netminder, but even after taking over midway through last season, he is a little inexperienced. The Friars are one of those rare teams that only has two seniors. Maybe next year will be a little better for them.

For more on Providence, refer to the Hockey East preview.

PICK: This is a tough call, but Koenig comes through for the youngsters. Union 2, Providence 1

Colgate (1-1-0) at Army (2-0-0) Saturday, 7 p.m., Tate Rink, West Point, NY

The Red Raiders of Colgate pulled the upset of the young season by going into Yost Ice Arena and ending Michigan’s 36-game home unbeaten streak with a 2-1 victory. Colgate played tough the next evening: midway through the second period the game was tied 3-3, before Michigan took over to win 6-4.

"We came in with a game plan and stuck with it," said head coach Don Vaughn. "We really tried to plug up the middle of the rink. We were concerned about letting them freewheel. It was a great effort by our guys."

Sophomore Andy McDonald picked up ECAC Player of the Week honors for his game winning goal on Friday, and the first goal of the game on Saturday. In fact, all of the ECAC honors this week went to Red Raiders — Cory Murphy snared Rookie of the Week honors, and Dan Brenzavich was named Goaltender of the Week.

Brenzavich scored points in his bid for the number-one netminder’s spot with 23 saves in the win. Shep Harder played the next night and gave up six goals in a tough loss.

Vaughn was expecting his team to "take the ball and run with it" in terms of scoring, and his Raiders certainly did that. Five different players had goals and nine different players had points for Colgate this past weekend.

Meanwhile, the Cadets started their season last week with two victories over Findlay, 11-2 and 3-2. This week, the limited major Division I schedule begins for the Cadets.

Army will count on Greg Buckmeier to spark the offense. He had a career-high 44 points last season (17-27). But the junior will be missing his partner, Andy Lundbohm, the second leading scorer on the team last year with 19-27–46. Lundbohm is recovering from a wrist injury and is due back towards the end of November.

In goal, the Cadets have a solid senior in Daryl Chamberlai, who holds the Army record for most shutouts in a career with 13, and has a career 2.95 GAA to go with his 41 career wins.

The keys for the Cadets will be their offense, most notably the special teams, and the infusion of young players into the system.

"The improvement of our special teams, along with the development of our many young players will be the key to success this year," said head coach Rob Riley. "Many of our former junior varsity players and freshmen will have the opportunity to make an impact."

PICK: Colgate wins, but in a closer contest than some expect. Colgate 4, Army 3

No. 3 Boston University (1-0-0) at Vermont (0-1-0) Saturday, 7 p.m., Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, VT

Boston University looked like a team that could do no wrong against Rensselaer last weekend, and the Terriers took home the 6-0 victory.

Chris Drury added another goal and two assists to his numbers, as his line (with Tommi Degerman and Mike Sylvia) combined for nine points. Tom Poti added two more goals to his resume, showing why he is a legitimate All-America candidate.

Michel Larocque should get the nod this week in Burlington, and he hopes to match the performance that Tom Noble put up against Rensselaer.

For more on Boston University, refer to the Hockey East preview.

The Vermont Catamounts tried in vain to mount offense against UNH in their 5-1 loss last weekend, but could only manage a B.J. Kilbourne power-play goal with less than two minutes left in the game.

"It’s my third concern in terms of priority," said head coach Mike Gilligan about his forwards in the Vermont season preview. "We’ve got some good forwards coming up; we’re young, but we’ll be okay."

Judging by last weekend, perhaps the forwards should become a priority. Granted, the Catamounts were facing a national power in New Hampshire, but they only generated five shots in the second period and four shots in the third.

James Tierney got the call last weekend between the pipes, so one can expect to see either Andrew Allen or Marty Phillips in net against the Terriers this weekend.

Special teams is another area where the Cats look to improve. Vermont was shorthanded nine times, and allowed two power-play goals to UNH.

PICK: The Terriers looked unbeatable last weekend, and there’s no reason why their team speed shouldn’t do as well this week. Vermont is not the same team that it was last year. There’s work to be done in Burlington. Boston University 6, Vermont 2

UMass-Lowell (0-0-0) at RPI (0-1-0) Saturday, 7 p.m., Houston Fieldhouse, Troy, NY

The Engineers had it handed to them at Walter Brown Arena last Friday evening, suffering a shutout, 6-0. Head coach Dan Fridgen made no excuses, but pointed to the two extra games that BU played in the Ice Breaker Invitational.

"You can practice for three months, but there’s nothing like playing in a game," he said. "And it certainly showed.

"We weren’t in game shape," he added. "It’s a tough situation to be in, rotating three lines in the first game of the season, and we could have used the extra bodies. It was tough on the guys. We didn’t have any game conditioning yet. As a coach there’s a real fine line [between] being a well-conditioned athlete and being a well-conditioned athlete in a game. The intensity in practice is not the same as being in a game.

"It’s not an excuse," he added. "We got outplayed, plain and simple."

The Engineers hope that another week of practice and some game conditioning will help them this week. The biggest factor is that RPI got to hit opponents instead of themselves. That’s a key to the Engineer team, what Fridgen calls "dictatin’ and inititatin’."

"You’ve got to take the body," he said. "We can’t be caught watching the puck instead of taking the body."

"We didn’t show up to play (against BU)," said Engineer forward Mark Murphy. "We’ve got a lot of work to do."

The object of the work is a game against the River Hawks of UMass-Lowell, who have won the last three contests between the two teams.

Greg Koehler, Chris Bell and Shannon Basaraba lead the offense for the ‘Hawks; Bell had two goals in last year’s 3-0 victory over the Engineers.

On defense, Mike Nicholishen is an All-America candidate and leads the charge in front of Martin Fillion, Lowell’s outstanding goaltender.

For more on UMass-Lowell, refer to the Hockey East preview.

PICK: RPI will rebound, and get the River Hawks coming off a Hockey East game. With the home opener coming for RPI, they get Dan Fridgen’s 50th career win. RPI 5, UMass-Lowell 2

ECAC exhibitions this weekend: Ryerson at Cornell Nothing secret here. Cornell in a 7-1 romp. Elmira at Princeton A Division III school at a Division I school, a good Division I school at that. Princeton rolls, 6-1.

Things heat up some more next weekend, with other ECAC teams getting into the action. Here is the schedule:

Friday, Oct. 31 Ohio State at Clarkson Vermont at Lake Superior State St. Lawrence at Miami (OH) Princeton at Nebraska-Omaha New Hampshire at RPI Northeastern at Colgate Dartmouth at Army

Saturday, Nov. 1 Ohio State at Clarkson Vermont at Lake Superior State St. Lawrence at Miami Princeton at Nebraska-Omaha RPI at Army Air Force at Yale Northeastern at Cornell Union at Merrimack

Sunday, Nov. 2 Union at UMass-Lowell

Thanks to Ken Schott of the Schenectady (N.Y.) Gazette for help on this article.